Wednesday, October 8, 2008

What I know

I was speaking on the phone yesterday with a friend who is pregnant with her first child and talk turned to another woman who is getting well into her forties.

"I gather she's not interested in having kids," I said.

"Actually she's thinking about adopting," my friend replied. "She really wants to be a mom, but she's not so big on the baby stage because they can't talk, so she's thinking of adopting a toddler."

"Oh...well...I don't know if that, uh, makes it easier," I stammered.

And I didn't mean to sound disapproving, but perhaps I did because my friend rushed to respond.

"Well, I mean, she just thinks she could handle it better if the child could at least kinda articulate what they want," she said. "And good on her for knowing what she can handle, you know?"

And I made agreeable noises and changed the subject because I didn't know what to say. Or, perhaps more accurately, I didn't know how to say what I felt without sounding completely condescending.

What I wanted to say was that once my friend's baby was born she would likely realize how silly the notion that anyone truly invested in becoming a mother would blithely consider skipping a stage in their child's development because she's "not so big on it."

I wanted to say that if our mutual friend was ever fortunate enough to become the mother of an older child through adoption, it is likely she would mourn every single day she wasn't in that child's life, whether they could talk or not. I wanted to say it is almost certain she would ache with the longing to have known and loved that child even one day earlier.

I do not think I have discovered the secret to life because I have borne a child. I am well aware there are a lot of morons raising children and every day I see people who appear not to have had their consciousness raised to any great degree as a result of parenting.

But there are some things that even marginally thoughtful parents cannot escape learning and I don't know if those things can be fully appreciated by people who have never known what it is like to divert your entire life - every thought, every movement, every last ounce of your energy - to the benefit of another human being.

You don't get, for example, really get, the complexity of a human being's physical, intellectual and emotional development until you see it close up, unfolding before you on a daily basis.

You don't get that parenting is easy and difficult and fun and yet a massive drag, all at the same time. You don't really understand that mothering a toddler is both the same and different and easier and harder and more fun and less fun than mothering a baby, or a even teenager for that matter.

You don't understand how it can be all the same. And yet so very different.

I am not the smartest person in the world, but I do know that the care and devotion a child will require at any stage of its development cannot be predicted, compared or quantified: it cannot even be imagined.

Maybe I am condescending, but I know these things and neither of my friends do yet.

And that does not mean I am smarter than they are, but it does mean that I am a mother.

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63 comments:

Awesome Mom said...

I don't think that is condescending at all. Really I would think that taking on a toddler would be a lot harder than a baby. Babies let you ease into the whole parenting thing as they become more and more complicated. But then you only really understand that when you have gone through it.

Jen E @ mommablogsalot said...

I really don't see why she'd want a toddler right away. I've said multiple times that they come out babies for a reason - I think if they came out whiny tantrum throwing stubborn little two year olds not many people would be so willing to sign up. Babies nap and coo and make you fall in love so that when they start acting like teenagers at 18 months you don't kick them to the curb.

At least, that's my opinion. I totally get everything you are saying - you're right in some ways toddlers are easier, much easier; but they are also, like you said harder. And personally without that adjusting period, that time to get to know their personality inside and out... It's not something I'd want to just leap into in the middle if given a choice, I'd rather start at the beginning personally.

Nowheymama said...

I would hate for her to turn down an adoption just based on age. Ages are so fleeting.

Kelly O said...

Yikes, kudos to you for holding your tongue. My daughter was the first baby I ever held, so I can kind of understand where your friend is coming from. Babies are intimidating. But, as you point out, she just doesn't know what she's talking about.

Kathryn said...

Maybe she could borrow one of my toddlers and test that theory. She may be begging for the baby stage (and no talking) after that. ;)

I see what you are saying and I agree. I also think you were wise to bit your tongue. :)

sky girl said...

I think that being a Mom is the hardest thing ever. It drains every last bit of you.

Some days I can't wait to get to the next stage of things but a part of me knows that each stage brings its own hardships and challenges.

Some days I would tell you that this baby/toddler thing is for the dogs but if I think about it - which is what your post made me do - I know that I would be devastated if I missed a moment of Chicka's life and development so far.

Motherhood changes everything. Everything.

Angie @ KEEP BELIEVING said...

Yes. This is all so true. I remember before I had kids how all-knowing moms seemed to be about kids and what it's like to be a parent. And the thing is, you just know something that non-parents don't know. There is nothing condescending about it. It is just the way it is.

KEEP BELIEVING

Ashley said...

It's so true, really, and so uncomfortable to be the one to have to say it. When I was reading this, I was sort of thinking that it sounds fairly typical of a pre-parent to make judgments on which stages of a child's life they'd prefer to skip. So naive. Offensive, too, considering how enormously the early stages shape who WE are. Infancy has enormous consequences, though, and if this woman is planning on adopting, let's hope she at least takes an interest in early childhood development and what may have come before her.

Amy @ Milk Breath and Margaritas said...

Good post! I felt the same way when a friend told me they were adopting a 3 yr old because she wanted to skip the diaper stage. (They had already adopted an infant who was now a little girl.)

I was sort of baffled by that. Especially after having a child, how could you really want to skip any stage, even diapers??

(Except ages 13-17 for girls at least. I could have personally done without a lot of that crap.)

Aunt Becky said...

Well spoken, as per usual DMD. Glad to know you. Really, I am.

Angella said...

This was such a great post. You say things that are so true. People *think* they know what it means to mother.

And then they become one :)

tommie said...

using that philosophy....I would like someone to adopt my kids from the hours of 4:30 until 7 or so each day.

Helen E.M. Wright said...

I would have totally put my foot in my mouth...small frontal lobes and all!!

Jaina said...

I think you're spot on. And not to say anything bad about your friend, but I would be slightly concerned about the whole situation. I think it would be great for an older child to get adopted, as many of them don't. But the reasoning just off-sets me a little bit. But I think you handled the situation admirably.

Ellyn said...

I think you said it very well. These are things only a mother can understand. I didn't see it as condesending just honest.

Mr Lady said...

I don't know that I've ever agreed with you more on anything ever. I can understand where those two were coming from, just because THEY DON'T GET IT YET. No one really gets it until they're a mother.

Vodka Mom said...

YOu really did say that very well. I, also, would have TOTALLY screwed myself. I tend to do that.

flutter said...

gotta be honest. I want all of it. I want the shitty diapers and the crying in the middle of the night and the little face pressed into my neck.

All of it.

Karen said...

I think you are absolutely right. I'm not so much into the baby stage either, but let me tell you that my own babies were the best things that ever happened to me. Every day is a blessing.

caramama said...

I agree with you completely. And it's just one of those things you don't understand until you are a parent.

However, I think it's wonderful that she is considering adopting a toddler. There are a lot of toddlers and children out there who need a good home, and yet most adoptive parents are looking only for babies. Even though she may never know what she is missing, I don't think she will love a child less just because she didn't see the baby stage. It's a shame she won't experience it, but she is considering giving a good home to a child who is likely in more need than a baby who is in high demand.

Hmm. I hope that made sense and came out right.

Desiree Fawn said...

...it is almost certain she would ache with the longing to have known and loved that child even one day earlier.

I think that was really well put.

Lisa@verybusymomwith4 said...

I am seriously laughing at the comment " it better if the child could at least kinda articulate what they want"....has she met a toddler? ;)

This post is so true!

ewe are here said...

The other reality is, that if the woman is in her late forties, she may not be allowed to adopt a 'baby' via most normal adoption avenues... She may just be trying to put some positive spin for herself on the benefits of slightly older children waiting to be adopted.

Lots of people want to have babies. It doesn't happen for everybody...

Chelle said...

Amen.

beth said...

So true- you just can't know until you are there. I remember worrying about the silliest things, like would I be able to handle changing all those diapers. Needless to say that is now the least of my worries.

Opening your home and your heart to a child, especially an older child, is a wonderful thing though and I wish them luck.

Auds at Barking Mad said...

I don't think that sounds condescending at all.

As the mother of TWO 18 year olds, a 15 year old and a 2 year old, I can attest that NO stage is easier than the other. But at the end of the day, when I lay my head down, I know I wouldn't have missed ANY of it for the world.

Leanne said...

Yes.

It's just experience talking...

Redneck Mommy said...

As a hopeful adoptive parent and a three time around the block momma already, I don't think you said anything I wouldn't have myself.

Besides I know you, and I couldn't even imagine you being condescending.

Kate Coveny Hood said...

I think you're absolutely right about not being able to predict what life will be like with ANY child. Before become parents (through birth or adoption), we tend to think we have control over so many details. Like the best time of year to give birth (oh - don't ever want to be 8 months pregnant in the summer) or the sex of your children (I want all boys). Even more so - the various development issues that can present themselves, whether it's something obvious from birth (down syndrome) or something that presents later (autism). All you can really do is want to be a parent and be open to the child that enters your life, no matter what their age, race - genetics and personal challenges. It's all hard. But it's all wonderful. Does that sound condescending?

Kat said...

I think you handled it better than I would. I think I might have actually explained it as "well toddlers are like exchange students with really bad attitudes, you can't understand half of what they are saying and then they get mad at you and throw tantrums"

Heather said...

Oh I think I would have laughed in her face. What age is she thinking of adopting where the kid can articulate their wants and needs? I haven't come across that age yet.

I'm sure I sound condescending to new moms sometimes even though I try not to.

Beck said...

Anyone who thinks that it would be easier to adopt a toddler is just fooling themselves - that child would be old enough to come with their own history and memories, their own pre-existing bonds and to think that it would be easier to parent a heart-broken three year old than a newborn? No.

crazymumma said...

I think it means she is scared shitless.

crazymumma said...

....and with good reason I might add.

Zoeyjane said...

I think we all have those completely off-based, naive thoughts pre actual child entrance. I mean, I was the chick who was going to have kids and never ever do that thing I used to see moms doing at the grocery store that I was convinced was THISCLOSE to neglect and emotional abuse. What's the thing called? Now I do it all the time.

What am I talking about? Ignoring her when she's repeatedly making an annoying request for something - after I've said no four times, I just magically lose the ability to hear Isobel saying, "please, mama. please please please. i want it. please please please. mama, mama, can i have it, mama? please please. mama!"

Kj said...

Exactly!

Worded perfectly DMD. how sweet it is you can blog about it and get a zillion other parents telling you "they get it".

I find this also rings true for parents with younger children than mine who have big plans and "ideas" about the future parenting of their child(ren).

You just don't know, 'till you know. You know... :-)

LaskiGal said...

And thus the reason I grasp onto each moment. . . it is fleeting. I am so fortunate to have been the first to really hold him, to love him, to give myself completely to him.

You really don't know until you hold a child in your arms . . . whether from birth or not.

The love that comes flooding in is simply indescribable.

Polly said...

Watching the progression of a newborn baby grow, learn and development is one of the most awe inspiring things I have ever witnessed. I couldn't ever imagine missing that experience.

RiverPoet said...

How true! I think it's a little strange that someone would want to adopt a child of a certain age because they weren't "into" the earlier stages. Certainly there are plenty of good reasons for adopting older children (and there are quite a few out there waiting for families), but that's the oddest reason I've ever heard.

I think that we definitely get a new perspective once we fall in love with our first child. Something changes forever in our hearts and minds. You've captured it well.

Peace - D

Parent Club said...

I think it is great that your friend wants to adopt. Practically any girl can have a baby but it takes someone special to become a mother.

(no matter what age the child)

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

The idea of skipping any part of parenting because it's "easier" that way rather indicates one is not really understanding of what it means to be a parent.

Whitenoise said...

I don't think that you become fully rounded as a human being until you've been a parent. There's something about the sacrifice, the endless vigilance, the worry...

There are exceptions, of course, but most childless people are so into themselves- the vacations, the going out, the spas, the "me" time...

And you're right- there are many morons with children, but somehow learning to place another human being first teaches you more about your place in the grand scheme of things.

Elaine A. said...

I agree. I babysit a little girl now and she is here every day and sometimes I wish I'd watched her since she was a baby, just so I could know more of how she was as a baby...

Good post (as usual!)

3continentfamily said...

What a great post!
My 2 cents: I'm a recent adoptive mother to a beautiful 13 month old baby, who we were fortunate enough to meet when he was 10 months old. However, there are no guarantees, and I think that most adoptive parents prepare themselves emotionally and mentally that they will probably miss much of the beginning of their child's life, or not be offered a child under the age of 2 or 3 (and since your friend is mid-late 40's, that's most likely the case regardless if it's her choice). Maybe she was also just kidding a bit? Or using humor to soften what is likely- she will not be eligible for a child under 3?
As for mourning time lost in our son's life...we did, a little. When we first met especially. But for us starting at 'the beginning' was never going to happen so we adjusted accordingly. I understand why people who give birth may assume that there is a painful mourning or ache/sense of loss, because you know what 'from the beginning' is like. Our 'beginning' was when our son was 10 months old, and that's okay. Joy trumps any sense of loss :)

Vic said...

I can see both sides to this, but even so, I still wouldn't have been able to hold my toungue and not argue your point.

Kelli @ writing the waves said...

Wow...your friend might be in for a bit of a surprise. Communicating with a toddler??? It's more like decoding... haha

Michelle said...

I agree completely with you. The problem wasn't wanting to adopt a toddler (or older... so many need good homes). The problem was the whole WANTING to skip a stage, prejudging what it is like. I can see 3continent's point too, it might have been defensive, but it sounds to me like it was just ignorant. If she doesn't think she has the patience for a baby, what makes her think she has the patience for a toddler?
Great post!

Raising Boys said...

Love the blog! It's not condescending, it's just something I think you don't really understand fully until you are a mother -- whether that's through adoption or a child you gave birth to. Yes, you know you'll love your child, but you never understand just how much until you hold them.

JCK said...

Very well said. And no one can ever know until they become a mother. Even that sounds arrogant, but I imagine you know what I mean. And I didn't think you sounded condescending in this post at all. It was lovely.

Kimmylyn said...

I really enjoyed this post..and have to say that your comments made it that much more enjoyable. so much feedback..and from all sides.. But I believe that before you have a kid you know it all.. and the second you become one..you dont. :)

Loralee Choate said...

SO damn true. Every word of it. I am currently stuck between being ecstatic and dancing for joy and going "DEAR GOD WHAT DID I DO" because I know that parenting is ALL those things all at once.

Still worth every bit, though.

Tootsie Farklepants said...

That's not condescending. That's wisdom.

Bryan said...

Probably better just to sit that discussion out. Just be supportive. Everyone has different ideas. Or maybe she's worried about other things like wanting to be alive long enough to see the kid get married, have their own kids, etc. Who knows ... maybe that's just a guy thing to wonder about

Chantal said...

Anyone who is adopting BECAUSE they want to skip a stage is adopting for the wrong reason.

Your post is beautiful.

Meredith said...

Toddlers are easier because they can talk? Ah, she'll learn that what comes after toddler is the preschooler who never.stops.talking. My ears are bleeding from my three year old's questions at the end of each day, but the two-month old needs only breasts and cuddles - infinitely simpler. But what you say is much more important: Until you hold a child who is your own, you don't understand how you couldn't stand to miss one minute of their lives. Something else one never really knows until you have your own child is just how fast it all goes. As previous posters said, ages are so fleeting and you miss each stage when it's gone.

Tracy said...

As usual a great post! I love the way you are able to take me right to the moment! As for your friend, I agree with all sides. I think she may very well be trying to prepare for the fact she might be given an older child, and commend her for adoption of any age. I know from experience however, all stages in your childs life come with there own battles and no handbook, so love them, hug them, and enjoy every minute because in a blink its all gone. Thanks DMD for another great read, and congrats on holding your tongue..could never do it!

Trannyhead said...

Oh I don't know about this - I'm conflicted. Because I'm an adopted kid myself and I know that most people will ONLY accept babies and will REFUSE older children under some assumption that they're messed up or something. Anyway, I'm glad people are willing to adopt children who aren't babies for whatever their reasoning.

April said...

I see what you're saying, but, in thinking of the possibilities that it opens up to children who have not been adopted as babies, my first reaction was, "oh, good - some toddler will have a chance now."
Maybe her reasoning isn't the best, but if it makes a better outcome for a child, then that's worth more to me, you know? Too many people only want babies, and that leaves many older children from ever having the benefit of feeling raised by a loving family.

Mandy said...

I know this isn't the larger point of your post, but I love the idea that a toddler is um, articulate. Good luck to that mom who wants to adopt a toddler without the "training" the baby years give you.

(Also, what kind of toddler does she think she's going to get upon adoption? A happy, well-adjusted one who just happens to be currently available at age 2? Uh huh.) More than likely, she'll adopt one with a variety of challenges from his/her early years that will make the parenting even harder. If that's the kind of challenge she wants, then I take my hat off to her, because goodness knows those children need loving, nurturing homes. But somehow, it doesn't sound that way.

common mom said...

Excellent post! And not condescending at all. I'll admit, I'm not a baby person. I love my kids dearly now and loved them dearly when they were babies, I'm just not a baby person. I always said if kids came out 2 years old, I'd have 5. I only have 2 ;-) BUT, I would NEVER have given up that baby stage . . . I will never EVER forget the first night in the hospital when they brought Dude in to me for a feeding and I said "Hi Buddy" and he looked at me with those monstrous blue eyes of his as if to say "So, you're my mom. Nice to meet you. I'm HUNGRY!" I can't imagine having missed those baby years.

I wish your friends luck . . . your whole world changes when you have that child . . . really, your ENTIRE world changes - it's not YOUR world anymore - ever again - it is always their world because you're always a mother from that point on.

CC said...

I like this comment,"Lots of people want to have babies. It doesn't happen for everybody..." I'm with ewe are here and Trannyhead.

I'm an adoptive mom and know how HARD it is to adopt babies. There are SO many children waiting for forever homes. I wish people would consider adopting a child (regardless of age) in lieu of birth.

I agree with you that I am sad for every single day that I missed with my children (they became part of our family at 6 and 7 months). However, I wouldn't trade them for an infant adoption (or a birth!) for anything in the whole world.

Badness Jones said...

My SIL said something similar to me once, that she didn't like babies until they were about 2. (When my baby was about 4 months, tact isn't big in my husband's family!!) What she didn't get, is that you get out what you put in...the more love you give, the more you teach, the more you share and hold and dream - the more you both grow. Parent and child.

Irene said...

Sorry I am late to comment, but this is a tad crazy! Unfortunately, how it feels to be a mother can only be explained to those who are already mothers. No one else can truly get it.

I really hope this mom rethinks her "plan". It seems to be she is either not ready to be a mom or maybe doesn't really want to be one.

And if she did actually have a baby herself, and suddenly was overwhelmed with motherly love, she would probably be humiliated at her previous notion of wanting only a toddler.

And yeah, a toddler who can articulate what they want? Seriously? She needs to spend some time with my 3 year old. Some days, if I wasn't already so crazy in-love with her, I would seriously consider shipping her out on the next boat - LOL. Talk about testing your patience!